On Wednesday night, Ferrell proved it.
Indiana's freshman point guard, a year removed from his high school sharpshooter days, found his shooting touch while the Penn State Nittany Lions lost theirs.
The result — a 72-49 Hoosier victory and Ferrell's career scoring night of 15 points.
“He can shoot,” teammate Victor Oladipo said. “It was in his head at first. He's starting to realize he can shoot.”
Wednesday's realization came from work, which has been the foundation of the No. 7 Hoosiers' surge to national title contention.
“It's just getting in the gym and getting with these guys,” Ferrell said, referring to Oladipo and fellow teammates Jordan Hulls and Will Sheehey. “They have a tremendous work ethic. They pull me along with them to get extra shots off. That's what we're always doing after practice.”
Ferrell entered the game averaging 6.6 points and 34.9 percent shooting, 24.2 percent from three-point range.
But against Penn State he morphed into Hulls. He hit six of seven shots, three of them beyond the arc, to better his previous scoring high by two points. If the cost came in his assist numbers (he had just two assists, less than half his season average), coach Tom Crean wasn't sweating it.
“Yogi did an excellent job shooting,” Crean said. “You could see it (Tuesday).”
Penn State coach Patrick Chambers was worried about Christian Watford and Hulls from the perimeter, and the Nittany Lions held them to a combined 18 points.
“You think, with that, our team really has a chance,” Chambers said.
It did not.
Ferrell was a big part of that.
“I was just taking what the defense was giving me,” he said. “Vic found me, especially in the second half. I was open and I shot it.”
Added Oladipo: “A lot of the plays I was coming off and they were just leaving him. I won't not kick it to him. He knows that. It's hard for him to miss when the confidence gets flowing.”
It was a Hoosier night for offensive confidence.
Case in point:
*IU hit eight straight three-pointers in one stretch and finished 11-for-20, which was almost better than it shot free throws (21-for-37). The 11 three-pointers tied a season high.
*Oladipo went 2-for-2 from three-point range and scored a game-high 19 points. He shoots nearly 66 percent from the field, 55.2 percent from beyond the arc.
*Will Sheehey regained his shooting touch for 12 points. He'd scored a total of 14 points in his previous four games.
“Usually he's a good middle-range jump shooter,” Chambers said. “(Indiana) has a lot of talent and you can't take away everything. You have to pick your poison. Sheehey hit some threes to open everything up.”
*After four straight mediocre second halves, IU dominated the final 20 minutes, scoring 39 points on 58.8 percent shooting.
Yes, that mattered.
“It's a big emphasis on our team,” Oladipo said. “It seems like everybody in the country thinks we don't have good second halves. That's their opinion. That's fine. That's what they see.
“At the end of the day we'll do whatever it takes to finish strong. We're not trying to beat Penn State, we're trying to beat everybody in the country. We've got to realize that and it will help us down the road.”
The Hoosiers thrived despite an offensively ineffective Cody Zeller. He was 0-for-4 from the field, 2-for-4 from the line for a season-low two points. His previous low was six points against Georgia. He did have eight rebounds and three blocks in 21 minutes.
“Cody did a lot of other things to impact the game,” Oladipo said. “That's why he's such a great player. He might have had a slow offensive night, but he still had 10 deflections. He played tremendous defense. He rebounded. He's doing what it takes to win.”
IU guard Maurice Creek returned to action after being out since the Dec. 15 Butler game with a foot injury. He didn't score, going 0-for-2 from the field, but at least he played.
The Hoosiers improved to 17-2 overall, 5-1 in the Big Ten. They are a half game behind No. 13 Michigan State in the conference standings.
Penn State is 8-11 and 0-7.
Indiana's defense dominated. It was the second time it held a team under 50 points. Sam Houston State had 45 in late November.
IU controlled the first half. The offensive catalyst was Ferrell, who scored five early points as the Hoosiers bolted to a 7-0 lead, built leads as large as 15 and led at halftime 33-19.
The Hoosiers scored the first eight points of the second half to go ahead 41-19.
The rout was on.
Now the schedule gets tougher. Big Ten leader Michigan State comes to Assembly Hall on Sunday. Then there's a trip to rival Purdue next Wednesday. And then comes a Feb. 2 showdown with No. 2 Michigan.
“We have a hard stretch coming up,” Crean said. “Next week is three games and every game will be an absolute battle.”
Up nextTipoff: Michigan State at Indiana, 1 p.m. Sunday
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